NPR's David Welna quoted Sen. Joe Lieberman saying “I don't have any intention” of joining the Republican Party “before the end of this session of Congress,” to which Welna added: “Which still leaves unanswered what Lieberman might do in the next session of Congress.” But Welna did not note that if Lieberman joined the Republican Party, he would be breaking his promise during the 2006 campaign to caucus with the Democrats if re-elected to the Senate.
On the July 15 edition of National Public Radio's (NPR) Morning Edition, reporter David Welna asked if Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT) “might switch sides to hand Republicans the Senate majority,” and quoted Lieberman saying, “I don't have any intention of doing that before the end of this session of Congress.” Welna added: “Which still leaves unanswered what Lieberman might do in the next session of Congress.” But Welna did not note that if Lieberman joined the Republican Party, he would be breaking his promise during the 2006 campaign to caucus with the Democrats if re-elected to the Senate.
In October 2006, after Lieberman lost the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary to challenger Ned Lamont and decided to run for his seat as an independent, blogger spazeboy posted a video in which Lieberman was asked: “Would you unequivocally ... caucus with the Democrats?” Lieberman responded: “I've said that 1,200 times.” When asked to clarify with a “yes or no” answer, Lieberman responded: “Yes. Yes.”
In January 2007, Lieberman reportedly “asked to be called an Independent Democrat,” and “his office made clear that, if the compound modifier that the senator prefers was not going to take hold, then Lieberman's second choice is to be described as an Independent.”
From the July 15 edition of NPR's Morning Edition:
RENEE MONTAGNE (host): One person campaigning for John McCain is a self-styled independent Democrat. He's Joe Lieberman, the senator from Connecticut. Lieberman's support for the war in Iraq cost him his party's nomination two years ago, but he still went on to win election. And that win gave Democrats a narrow majority of 51 votes in the Senate. Party leaders rewarded Lieberman, making him chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. Now his support for John McCain has sparked an online drive to have him stripped of that chairmanship. NPR's David Welna has the story.
WELNA: Check out a website suggestively named LiebermanMustGo.com, and you'll find a video montage of Senator Joe Lieberman uttering to news anchors what to many Democrats sound like heresies.
LIEBERMAN [audio clip]: I think the Democratic Party, to its damage, has left that tradition of a strong foreign and defense policy, and that includes the leading Democratic presidential candidate --
WELNA: There's also an invitation to sign an online petition to have Lieberman stripped of his committee chairmanship after the November elections, when Democrats expect to pick up more Senate seats. Robert Greenwald's production company, Brave New Films, made the video. He says the point is to pressure Senate Democrats with the petition that now has more than 48,000 signatures.
GREENWALD [audio clip]: And given that Lieberman is actively and aggressively attacking the candidate for presidency of his party, it seems pretty clear he should not be given any of the perks that come with being a member of the Democratic Party.
LIEBERMAN [audio clip]: (singing) I'm not thinking about tomorrow.
WELNA: Crooning in his Senate office, Lieberman says he honestly does not care about the drive to remove his chairmanship.
LIEBERMAN: That decision is up to my colleagues in the Democratic caucus next year. I'm -- I'm going to do what I think is right now and not worry about what the political consequences may be for me.
WELNA: Lieberman says not only will he continue campaigning for John McCain, he's even willing to sing McCain's praises at the GOP convention in St. Paul.
LIEBERMAN [audio clip]: I strongly support John McCain. I believe in him, his strength, his principle, his effectiveness. So if he thought that I could help him by speaking at the Republican convention, I would do that. And I would do it, really, not to go and attack anybody, but to explain why I as a Democrat have crossed party lines to support John McCain, and why I hope a lot of other Democrats and Independents will do the same.
WELNA: Such talk has not gone over well with Lieberman's Democratic Senate colleagues, including California's Dianne Feinstein.
FEINSTEIN [audio clip]: I very much regret what he's doing, candidly, but there isn't anything I can do about it, and that's really all I want to say.
WELNA: Senate Democrats are generally reluctant to criticize Lieberman publicly. Chris Dodd, who like Lieberman is from Connecticut, thinks the anti-Lieberman petition drive is misguided.
[begin audio clip]
DODD: I think they're heading the wrong direction. I see Joe as an ally on most matters and a person who's been supportive of Democrats here on most issues.
WELNA: You think he should hang on to his chairmanship?
DODD: Oh yeah -- I would -- I would, absolutely, yeah.
[end audio clip]
WELNA: Another defender is Maine Republican Susan Collins, to whom Lieberman gave $10,000 for her re-election.
COLLINS [audio clip]: My hope is that he will not be punished for doing what he thinks is right.
WELNA: Might Lieberman switch sides to hand Republicans the Senate majority? Lieberman says that thought hasn't really crossed his mind. He has no complaints, he says, about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
LIEBERMAN [audio clip]: Senator Reid has been easy to work with. I have a lot of good friends in the caucus, and I don't have any intention of doing that before the end of this session of Congress.
WELNA: Which still leaves unanswered what Lieberman might do next session of Congress, when Democrats expect to return with a bigger majority. Though Majority Leader Reid defends Lieberman, he too is vague about the future.
[start audio clip]
REID: Anytime we have a problem here, with the exception of Iraq, Joe Lieberman's with us. So I wish people would leave him alone.
WELNA: And next year?
REID: Well, next year -- we'll get to next year when we get there.
[end audio clip]
WELNA: In the meantime, Lieberman seems assured his apostasy won't cost him his chairmanship. David Wellna, NPR News, the Capitol.